Cornell University

Institute for Compensation Studies™

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News

May 7 2012

ICS’ Managing Director sorts through confusion over gender gap statistics

A “he said/she said” argument of sorts broke out during the April 29th airing of NBC’s “Meet the Press” over the topic of the gender wage gap in the U.S. The heated words were between Republican strategist Alex Castellanos and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. To sort through the noise (and statistics), Robin Young, host of NPR’s Here & Now (WBUR - Boston) turned to the Institute for Compensation Studies at Cornell’s ILR School.

Linda Barrington, managing director of the Institute for Compensation Studies, spent a quarter of an hour on air with Robin Young to explain how wage gaps are calculated and how to interpret what sounds like factual contractions in the numbers cited by liberals and conservatives.

“Yes, [women] are paid less,” stated Barrington on the May 3rd broadcast of Here & Now. “But the debate is over how much less and why they are paid less.” She went on to explain that when comparing individuals with the same education and years of experience in the same job the gap is around 5%, not 25%. It is not untrue, however, that women are paid around 80 cents for every dollar that men are paid, clarified Barrington. What needs to be understood is that this is the “raw” number, not taking into account that women work fewer hours, on average, then men and in different kinds of jobs.

Barrington stressed that important gaps in educational and career outcomes do exist and provide evidence of the serious barriers that women face to achieving equality. She also noted that challenge of overall income inequality in the U.S. (between the rich and poor, regardless of gender) cannot be lost in the shuffle.

Listen to audio clip of full Here & Now interview.

Read abbreviated discussion of Here & Now interview

Download PDF of slide deck presenting data and research related to the U.S. gender gap as discussed by Barrington.